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Vietnam firm, ANA join hands in telepresence robot project

Saturday, November 09, 2019, 16:55 GMT+7
Vietnam firm, ANA join hands in telepresence robot project
Vu Duy Thuc (L) pose with his partners at the 2019 Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies in Chiba, Japan in this provided photo

A Calfornia-based telepresence company co-founded by a Vietnamese serial entrepreneur has recently partnered with ANA, the largest airline in Japan by revenue and passenger number, in a project which highlights telerobotics innovations.

The 37-years-old Vietnamese Vu Duy Thuc, who made the Silicon Valley’s 40 under 40 list for 2017, together with robotics experts Jared Go and Tingxi Tan established OhmniLabs in 2015, focusing on providing demand-driven robotics solutions for businesses with a library of tech modules, cloud AI (artificial intelligence), and robotics services.

OhmniLabs announced last month that it would be joining ANA Holdings, which owns the airline All Nippon Airways, as a partner for the company’s ANA AVATAR project that uses robots to connect people with remote destinations as well as employment.

In an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper at the "VietAI Summit: All for the Future" in Ho Chi Minh City last week, Vu Duy Thuc talked about OhmniLabs’ participation in this project.

'Newme', the robots used for the project, were created by OhmniLabs and recently unveiled at the 2019 Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) held in Chiba, Japan in October 15-18.

“To make it simple, Newme is a robot product that acts as a remote-controlled ‘copy’ of the user,” Thuc told Tuoi Tre.

As the robot is connected to the Internet, users can control it to get the feeling of walking, chatting, or listening to the sounds in the space where the robot is, without having to actually go to that place, Thuc explained.

ANA Holdings wants to develop these telepresence robots as it believes the future of travel lies not in airplanes but will come with the help of robots, according to Thuc.

“ANA wants to realize this view by developing the Newme robots in a record time,” he said.

OhmniLabs was able to meet this timing requirement with its advanced additive manufacturing process and modular architecture.

The OhmniLabs CEO and co-founder admitted that the company underwent great pressure trying to wrap up engineering and manufacturing Newme in only six months, while it normally takes up to two years to develop a robot.

“There were days we needed to start working almost from scratch on ten different designs,” Thuc recalled.

“Thankfully, we have a team of talented and enthusiastic engineers who are able to deliver the right designs under dreadful time pressure,” he said.

At the CEATEC 2019, OhmniLabs was awarded with a prize for products geared toward the realization of Society 5.0, Japan's new blueprint for a super-smart society.

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